Barrels around Oakland are filling up with dolls, games, books, gloves, scarves, socks and other holiday gifts as residents continue to donate items to the Mayor’s Toy Drive. This annual community collection helps ensure that children in all Oakland neighborhoods will have presents to open come Christmas morning.
“It’s a little daunting trying to fill every family’s requests,” said Al Lujan, supervisor of the Oaklanders Assistance Center, where low-income families can sign up to receive donations from the drive. “We’re really counting on the Oakland community—and beyond—to step up.”
Donation barrels have been placed all around the city—from City Hall to the Oakland Zoo, as well as at the Chabot Space & Science Center, port headquarters, fire stations, libraries and Children’s Fairyland. Organizers have tried to make it easy for people to contribute to the toy drive. (Use the map above or scroll down for a complete list to find a drop-off location near you.)
Donations of new, unwrapped items will be accepted until December 23. Families registering children to receive gifts can do so at the Oaklanders Assistance Center in City Hall until Monday, December 17.
Most people tend to buy gifts for children ages 2 to 8, Lujan said. But now the drive is especially in need of gifts for 12-year-old girls—things like jewelry kits, watches, arts and craft supplies, MP3 players or even hats and scarves. They are also looking for gifts geared toward infants, he said, and sporting equipment for older boys.
Those short on time can donate cash online or send a check for the Community Toy Drive to City Hall. Every year the city runs out of toys, Lujan said, and volunteers will use this money to buy more gifts from local stores.
“We need to maintain our previous levels of toy donations and raise about $35,000,” stated Mayor Jean Quan in a press release. “Many families are still feeling the recession,” she continued. “Oakland has a higher percentage of low income families than other Bay Area cities. One of three children are in families who live below the poverty line.”
The city is also recruiting hundreds of volunteers to help register families, both on site at the Oaklanders Assistance Center and out in the community. Last weekend a team of volunteers went out to West and East Oakland to register children for gifts from the toy drive. Quan started these neighborhood sign-up sessions last year, Lujan said, to reach more families in need. Prior to 2011, parents had to travel to downtown Oakland to register.
Volunteers are also needed to organize donated items and stuff toy bags on the distribution days. Registered families will come back to City Hall during an assigned appointment time between December 20 and 23. Santa Claus will pass out the toys and other gifts.
This year’s community outreach has allowed more families to benefit from holiday gift donations, so the number of children expecting to receive gifts has risen as well. The rising numbers are also an indication that more families are experiencing financial problems, Lujan said. “I have met a lot of families who say this is the first year they have to ask for help,” he said. “People who lost their jobs, lost their homes. It’s heartbreaking sometimes.”
To qualify for gift donations, a parent must prove their family lives in Oakland, bring a document that shows their child is less than 12 years old and show proof that their income falls below the federal poverty guidelines, which for a family of four is currently about $23,000 a year. “But if they don’t have [documentation], we don’t turn them away,” Lujan said, explaining that some low-income families may be earning money under the table.
The number of families registered for the toy drive doubled from 2010 to 2011, and this year Lujan expects it to nearly double again. They have already registered 2,200 Oakland families and are still counting, he said. Last year they had a total of 1,600.
The drive has been an annual Oakland event for 31 years. Last year, it served about 6,000 children from low-income families in Oakland. The city expects to give gifts to more than 8,000 this year, Quan said in the press release. In addition to toys and winter clothes donated by Oakland residents, the city will give away tickets to Children’s Fairyland, passes for the Chabot Space & Science Center and vouchers to help kids enroll with a team at Diversity Sports, a national organization that coordinates community sports leagues for kids—all donated to the drive by these establishments.
“Every year I am nervous about meeting the need,” Lujan said. “But the community always comes through.”
Click here for more information, or call 510-777-TOYS.
New, unwrapped toys and other gift items can be dropped off at the following locations during normal business hours:
City and Port Locations
Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank H. Ogawa
City of Oakland’s Dalziel Building, 250 Frank H. Ogawa
City of Oakland’s Wilson Building, 150 Frank H. Ogawa
Any Oakland Fire Station
Oakland Police Administration Building, 455 Seventh Street
Oakland Police Eastmont Substation, 2651 73rd Avenue
Oakland Public Library, 125 14th Street
César Chávez Branch Library, 3301 East 12th Street
Rockridge Branch Library, 5366 College Avenue
Port of Oakland Headquarters, 530 Water Street
Chabot Space & Science Center, 10000 Skyline Boulevard
Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Avenue
Oakland Ice Center, 519 18th Street
Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak Street
Retailers and Corporate Partners
A Great Good Place For Books, 6120 LaSalle Avenue
Alta Bates Summit Medical Center Patient Care Pavilion, 350 Hawthorne Avenue
Boxer & Gerson, 300 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Suite 500
City Center buildings at 555 12th Street and 1212 Broadway
East Bay Express, 620 Third Street
EndGame, 921 Washington Street
Grand Lake Café, 440 Grand Avenue
Jack London Square building lobbies at 66 Franklin Street, 70 Broadway and 55 Harrison Street
Komodo Toys, 4004 MacArthur Boulevard
Oakland Housing Authority, 1619 Harrison Street
Ramsell Holding Corporation, 200 Webster Street
Schintzer Steel, 1101 Embarcadero West
Silver Lining Jewelry, 3340 Lakeshore Avenue
Water Lilies, 3935 Piedmont Avenue
Wells & Bennett Realtors, 1451 Leimert Boulevard